STARTING 2020 WITH HOCKEY
13 January, 2020
With 2019 wrapped up, it’s time to look forward to some of the exciting competitions coming up in the first month of 2020, the Olympic year.
The first edition of the FIH Pro League was used by many countries to widen their squads and give many youngsters the first chance of impressing on the world stage. This year, however, promises to be much more about whittling down the squads to the lucky 16 who will be getting on the plane to Tokyo.
The past weekend saw the start of the new edition of the Pro League. Following feedback from athletes and federations, the format has been changed to minimise travel, with double-headers in a single country replacing the home and away format from last season.
Over the course of January, there will be 7 men’s and 5 women’s games in the Pro League.
In the men’s competition, the Australia-Belgium double header stands out, with only two points separating the two countries ranked number 1 and 2 in the world, in what many predict as the most likely Olympic final. The Belgians have had more success on the world stage in recent times, but the Australians are hoping that the return to the Sydney Olympic Stadium where they won their last Olympic gold will be a good omen for the upcoming year.
In the women’s tournament, the Netherlands will be looking to continue their world dominance with four games against China and the United States. The games in Changzhou will see a battle between Frederique Matla and Zhong Jiaqi, who are both in the running for the FIH Rising Star award for 2019.
In Europe, most of the action is taking place in the indoor halls. With no World Cup this year, the highlight of the indoor season are the European Championships.
The women’s competition takes place in Minsk between 24-26 January. Germany and the Netherlands are the favourites, each having won 2 of the past 4 trophies. Belarus, bronze medal in 2016 and 2018, will hope to go one step further on home soil and reach the final.
The men’s tournament takes place one week earlier in Berlin, with the home side hoping to reclaim gold after suffering upsets from their neighbouring rivals Austria in the most recent World Cup and European Championships. Belgium, led by Renaud Pangrazio, will be hoping to upset the odds and win the country’s first indoor gold.
Written by Giulio Ferrini
Image by @daren_newman